IBS is a cluster of symptoms consisting commonly of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Some IBS patients experience alternating diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a functional disorder of the intestine. There is no sign of the disease that can be seen or measured, but the intestine is not functioning normally. It is common, occurring in about one in five Americans, more commonly in women. It usually begins in late adolescence or early adult life and rarely appears for the first time after the age of 50.
A survey mailed to 1,340 members of a national patient advocacy organization representing those with irritable bowel syndrome resulted in 657 responses. The survey, developed by Mugdha Gore, Ph.D. of Avalon Health Solutions on behalf of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, solicited information on patient demographics, disease history, symptom frequency and bothersomeness, health care utilization, medication use, out-of-pocket expenses, and impact of symptoms upon productivity and functioning.
Of the respondents, 65% met accepted criteria for IBS (Rome II). Of these, 95% were white, 79% female, and 58 % single. Their mean age was 54 and mean age at IBS diagnosis was 41 years. Among those with IBS, 99% experienced one or more GI symptom during the past 3 months, and two-thirds of IBS patients experienced 10 to 24 GI symptoms during this time.
Almost all (97%) had two or more consults with a health care professional for their GI disorder in the last three months, and 75% reported had four or more consults (visits and telephone calls.)